Robotic process automation (RPA) takes interactions that a human normally has with a computer and automates them with a “robot” – an algorithmic software. The main benefits come from removing the burden of repetitive tasks from people, which results in higher production rates, improved accuracy and quality, and lower cycle times. An example specific to manufacturing is generating automated bills of material (BOM’s) or ingredient lists.
The robot software may be used to complete a transaction, manipulate data, trigger responses and communicate with other digital systems. It most valuable when applied in areas of high volume tasks that are mostly transactional or logic based. You can view more examples of industry-specific applications here. The most common ways RPA is applied include:
- Process automation – Following the logic of a ruled-based, non-subjective process, this type of automation carry out prescribed functions and scale with demand. Supply chain management, customer service, procurement, data entry, billing, customer service – these are all examples of functions that can benefit from robotic process automation.
- IT support and management – automation of simple problem investigation and management is the most common application in IT for RPA. Acting as a first service desk, many small, common issues can be solved without human intervention.
- Automated assistance – software analyzes language, content, intent and questions and provides answers and guidance back to users in natural language. For example, the “Ask Google” or “Siri” functions on smartphones. This can also be applied in a manufacturing setting, providing troubleshooting and operational controls verbally to machine and manufacturing line operators.
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